This favorite Mexican wrap is delicious when stuffed full of beans and turned into burritos, tacos, quesadillas, or much less traditional ingredients. But are flour tortillas vegan? And what about vegan corn tortillas? We're breaking down the essential tortilla ingredients below and revealing which brands offer vegan tortillas so that plant-based foodies can chow down.
You'll find sizzling hot tacos, burritos, and other tortilla-based foods for sale on every street corner in Mexico and much of Central and Southern America.
But they're not just popular south of the border - Americans love to eat tacos ever since they were first brought here by Spanish immigrants in the early 1900s when they headed north to find work building American railroads.
Tacos are mind-blowingly popular today, with 9% of our restaurants taco-wielding, Mexican food joints.
It's easy to see why they're such a big hit - they're carby, and bread is everyone's favorite food group.
Plus, you can stuff them full with almost anything, from classic ingredients to something a little more unique, like peanut butter and bananas.
But, are corn tortillas suitable for a vegan diet?
Sure, corn is vegan, but many seemingly vegan foods often contain hidden animal products.
We're delving into these corn-based flatbread recipes to reveal their full ingredient list and determine if they're safe for a plant-based diet. We’ll also take you through the most common brands you might encounter at the grocery store or restaurant.
What are tortillas?
A tortilla is a thin, round flatbread traditionally served with most Mexican meals as both a utensil and a tasty part of the dish.
Corn, or maize, is the original recipe base, as it was a readily-available Mexican grain.
Just like corn chips, tortillas come in a range of colors, dependent on the type of corn used in the recipe.
Today, tortillas contain much more than corn - there are many wheat-based varieties and gluten-free options made with alternative flours, like almond or coconut flour.
Like anything else, tortilla recipes vary from home to home and brand to brand.
The basic corn tortilla recipe can be as simple as masa harina corn flour, salt, and water, but many tortilla-makers add some extras for an even better result.
Here are the commonly-used ingredients you'll find in tortillas.
Corn or wheat flour
Whether you're eating a corn flour tortilla or a wheat flour tortilla, both are grain-based ingredients that are vegan.
Masa harina is the specialty corn flour used in tortilla-making - it is treated with lime water, then hulled and ground with no animal products used in the process.
Salt is an earth-based mineral. While it's an entirely acceptable food for vegans to eat, the salt content in many store-bought tortillas is pretty high, which can be detrimental to your health, specifically your blood pressure.
Water helps to bind the ingredients together and make them into a workable dough.
Fat isn't necessary for corn tortillas, but it can enhance flavor and give a creamier texture. You can often find a fat of some sort, like vegetable oil, in vegan flour tortillas.
Baking powder is another optional ingredient. The powder will perk up your flour tortillas and make them a little fluffier, more like the texture of a pita.
Lard, butter, or whey
While corn tortillas don't usually contain lard, some may choose to add it for richness and better flavor. Wheat flour tortillas often have animal fat in their classic recipes.
This animal fat is a commonly used cooking fat, and traditional tortillas that don't contain lard may still fry in lard, butter, or whey.
White sugar is a questionable ingredient in the vegan world. While sugar itself is plant-based, coming from the sugar cane plant, the sugar-making process commonly requires animal products.
White sugar is often bleached and filtered through animal bone char. While the bones don't end up in the sugar bag, many vegans don't want to support the process by consuming white sugar.
Manufacturers use no animal products or by-products in the making of this product.
So why do some vegans avoid palm oil?
Vegans typically avoid exploitative farming practices all-around - while there is particular care taken to avoid consuming animals, many vegans don't want to support farming that they believe to be harmful to the environment.
Palm oil production requires massive rainforest deforestation in Africa, America, Asia, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which displaces animals and in turn causing possible harm, death, and extinction.
Palm oil farming permanently exterminates entire unique and invaluable ecosystems.
Animal-derived enzymes, glycerin, monoglyceride, and diglyceride
They are used in the production process of most tortillas. However, some companies use plant-based enzymes instead of animal-based! Read food labels to be sure which is used.
Store-bought flour tortillas sometimes contain one of the four ingredients listed above, which may or may not derive from animals. If you're unsure about a particular component, call or email the company to find out more.
Are Tortillas Vegan?
It all depends on the tortilla brand and its specific ingredients. Stay away from tortillas that contain lard or animal-derived enzymes, to be sure.
Whether you consider white sugar or palm oil to be vegan is up to you. Each vegan makes a personal choice about whether they feel these tricky ingredients fit into their definition of a vegan diet.
We promise that if you're wondering what can't vegans eat, the list is much shorter than you think. Veganism doesn't have to mean giving up all of your favorite foods.
Are flour tortillas vegan?
Most flour tortillas are vegan tortilla wraps, as most modern brands and recipes commonly use vegetable oil in place of lard.
Are corn tortillas vegan?
Most corn tortilla recipes contain just salt, water, and cornflour - these plant-based tortillas are perfectly suitable for a vegan diet.
Are tortilla chips vegan?
Most of the tortilla chips you'll encounter are vegan, as they cook in vegetable-based oils, not lard.
Vegan Tortillas Brands
Here's a rundown of the most popular vegan flour tortilla brands you'll run into at the grocery store and restaurants.
- Old El Paso Tortillas
- Amaizin Organic Tortillas
- Tesco Own Brand Tortillas
- Whole Foods 365 Brand Tortillas
- Rudi's Gluten-Free Tortillas
- Food For Life Sprouted Corn Tortillas
- Mission Tortillas (uses enzymes)
- Taco Bell Tortillas
- Chipotle Tortillas
Vegan tortilla FAQ
Are Mission flour tortillas vegan?
According to their website, this uber-popular tortilla brand does not use any animal-derived ingredients. They do, however, use enzymes in their process, which some vegans choose to avoid.
Are Chipotle tortillas vegan?
Not only are Chipotle's tortillas completely vegan, but they also boast that many of their other menu ingredients are entirely vegan, including their rice, beans, salsa, and more.
Are Taco Bell tortillas vegan?
Taco Bell's beans, rice, guacamole, and tortillas are all animal-product free. They even introduced a unique line of vegan Mexican food called "Tacos with a Purpose." Taco Bell is leading the way in providing delicious, vegan Mexican options.
Do tortillas have eggs?
You will never find eggs in a recipe for tortillas or store-bought ingredients list.
Are tortillas dairy-free?
Tortillas are usually free of dairy, except in rare cases when cooked in butter or whey is added.
What size tortilla should I buy?
The size of the wrap needed depends on what food you're making with it.
- If you're making a giant burrito, grab a 10-inch wrap;
- For soft tacos, use the 8-inch round tortillas;
- And for a fajita, a 6-inch wrap is a perfect size.
How long do store-bought wraps last?
Typically, a store-bought corn or flour tortilla pack will last at room temperature from 16 to 45 days.
If you keep your wraps in the fridge, you can significantly extend their shelf-life to about 60-90 days.
Keep in mind, the minute you open the package, you expose the wraps to oxygen, which shortens their lifespan.
The final verdict on vegan tortillas
A large majority of tortillas are vegan! Vegetarians and vegans alike can enjoy vegan tortilla brands of corn and wheat flour tortillas made from plant-based products. The key is always to check the nutrition labels of a product if you’re unsure.
To recap, if you follow a vegan diet, you may want to avoid these ingredients:
- Lard, butter, or whey;
- White sugar;
- Palm oil;
- And animal-derived enzymes, glycerin, monoglycerides, and diglycerides.
Read the ingredients listed on store packages of tortillas, and if you're out at a restaurant and unsure, ask them about their ingredients.
We hope you enjoy using vegan tortilla brands of corn or wheat tortillas to make all of your favorite Mexican meals!